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North Dakotans on SNAP

Roberta Milford

Roberta Milford

A U.S. Army veteran, 57-year-old Roberta Milford relies on SNAP benefits along with veteran disability assistance to sustain her way of life. Her grocery budget is just $60 and the $11 she receives each month through the SNAP program allows her two gallons of milk and a loaf of bread. Despite the benefits and being on a fixed income, she still struggles to make it to the end of each month.

Roberta Milford

Most months, Roberta Milford budgets $60 for groceries.

An additional $11 of SNAP benefits allow her to buy two gallons of milk and a loaf of bread.

“I prepare a grocery list and then I have to prioritize it,” she says. “There are times I have to sacrifice things. It’s a way of life for me.”

Roberta, 57, doesn’t remember when she started to receive SNAP benefits. The Grand Forks resident receives veteran disability assistance for injuries sustained while serving in the U.S. Army and disability benefits for an unrelated condition. This income allows her to pay for basic needs: clothes, shoes, electricity, phone, and most of her groceries.

“I know that SNAP is supposed to be supplemental income. It’s not supposed to feed you; it’s supposed to help you,” she says. “But there’s not a lot I can do with it.”

With COVID-19, Roberta has received additional SNAP benefits for a few months. She decided to stock up on items that she usually can’t afford: hamburger, pork chops, ketchup, mayonnaise, and other condiments.

Her small freezer is full and that provides some relief during uncertain times.

Before COVID-19, Roberta’s grocery money would often run out before the end of the month. That meant eating less and skipping meals. No snacks.

Roberta would also benefit from the generosity of friends and neighbors. Sometimes a friend would give her a cake mix so she could bake something sweet. Another friend who lives nearby shared eggs from a case she received at a mobile food pantry event.

“I live with good neighbors,” she says. “If we get an abundance of anything, we share. I’m lucky.”

Roberta spends a lot of time planning when to visit food pantries and mobile food pantries. If she goes later in the day, she has to wait in line longer and food may run out, but she also may be able to bring home some extras. If she goes earlier, her wait is shorter and she is guaranteed food but no extras.

“You always take your chances,” she says.

A little more in SNAP benefits would change her life, she says.

Her decisions would be easier. She wouldn’t fret over whether one pound of hamburger is too much. Maybe she would buy a special treat for herself: a package of Oreos or some ice cream or a steak on clearance.

“That would be nice,” she says. “A small steak.”

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